Saturday, 25 June 2011

Running books.

I've read a fair few running books - not books on how to do it or anything so bland, rather books about particular event attempts, or memoirs, that kind of thing. Some are good, some are absolute shite. You never really know until you start reading, I suppose.

I just finished a fun book called Flanagan's Run, a novel set in 1931 and based on the real-life Bunion Derby, a depression era coast-to-coast footrace held in the US, from LA to NY, West to East. It's not great, by any means, but it's good fun, an easy read, and I genuinely found myself rooting for the characters toward the end. Not a bad sign.

I've often wondered why I'm so shite at reviewing things. I think it's because it comes down to whether I enjoyed it or not, and it's that simple. Oh well. You want in-depth? You're in the wrong place.

By my bed, I have my favourite running books, which include the most inspirational, of course. Among these are Douglas Coupland's brilliant – and largely pictorial – book about Terry Fox, called simply Terry. Always, always makes me cry.

What else is there… Haruki Murakami's running memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a really excellent read and insight into the author's mind and life. A real treat of a book by a beautiful writer.

Just A Little Run Around The World, by Rosie Swale Pope is one hell of a read. One woman in her 50s decides to run around the world, after her beloved husband dies, carrying her gear with her. This woman is made from strong stuff, and it's quite a book. She'll be your hero by the end of it, as she is mine.

There's also a couple of books by Jane and Mike Tomlinson. Jane was an amateur athlete who competed for many years with terminal cancer, and she raised millions of pounds for charity along the way. She also completed a full Iron Man, cycled across America, and also biked from Rome to Leeds. Quite a woman, quite an inspiration.

I've got a couple of Dean Karnazes books as well; that's what made me think of this post, as I'm trying to set up an interview with him for next week when he's in the UK. I enjoyed Ultramarathon Man a lot; 50/50 was also quite good fun, but a much more fragmented experience – as the 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days was for him, no doubt. I should be getting a proof of his new book on Monday, though it comes out only a week later.

Robin Harvie's Why We Run is fascinating, a look at one man's obsessive desire to push himself to the absolute limit and complete arguably the hardest race of them all, the Spartathlon. He's selfish, annoying, you'll want to punch him at various times - but he is unfailingly honest, and by the end you'll be admiring the man. Especially as he apologises to his wife in the dedications at the end. He also has a pretty good blog, but he's a busy person so it's not updated so frequently.

Last but not least, what I consider to be the finest book about running written to date. Born To Run is one you've probably already read. It's not the barefoot stuff in it that fascinates me so much. I mean, it is a compelling argument that running shoes do us no good at all. But I have shoes that suit me, I'm not getting injured, I'm very careful about my form.
What's so great about this book is the adventure. The great big adventure, of meeting these beautiful Mexican people, the Tarahumara, and ultimately racing them, possibly – the book argues – the finest athletes in the world. The journey of getting there, the characters you meet. La Brujita stays in my mind, particularly. But all of them… By the time the book ends, they are friends. You've been on this amazing journey with them, and as soon as you put down Born To Run, you'll go out for a run yourself. What better advert could there be for a book about running that that?

I've bought about eight copies of Born To Run, because every time I lend it out, it never comes back. But I don't mind one bit - if ever a book spread the love about running, this is the one. It captures the freedom of it, the joy of it, and the pain. It is one beautiful fucking book.

Enough of my burble. Work to do.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Back in the saddle... again

I finally did it. Went out for a run, this very morning. And fuck me, it was hard work. It's kind of warm and sticky here right now, not my ideal running conditions, but I ploughed on.

Woke up with my alarm at 6:10am, fell back asleep and woke again at 6:44. Lay there for just under 20 minutes and realised I had to get out and run or face another day without - which for me means another day where back pain is a possibility as the muscles in my legs and arse shorten.

I got out of the house (after a couple of false dawns - I had to take another big shit, then I realised I still had my glasses on and hadn't put contact lenses in… It's tough being me.) about 7:25, maybe 7:30, and took off up the road. Normally, my breathing kicks in nice and early and I find my pace, but not today. It was all a struggle, for the first mile and a half, anyway. Up that hill, then right, up another hill, to the end of that road, then back up it, another hill, sharp left, another fucking hill, flat, left, another fucking hill... You get the picture, it's hilly where I live. What came to me (you can call me Maths Boy. No, wait. Handsome Maths Boy, that works better. HMB for short) was that it was almost two weeks since my last run, and that is very, very naughty indeed. Two weeks tomorrow, in fact, and if I remember right it takes only two weeks for your cardio fitness to bugger off completely.

Oh, I see. That's why the run sucked so much!

The last couple of miles were okay, actually. Not so hard, the hills weren't a big deal. I even sprinted a couple.

When I got home, after a short walk (I always stop with a ten-minute or so walk home to cool down properly, without cooling down entirely), I stretched outside the house. I took fucking ages with it (around 20 minutes, I think), because I really, really needed it. And now, I feel so much better there are no words. I might even get some fucking work done.

Just as well, as I have a ton of transcription waiting for me, and have to deliver 2,000 words to another magazine today too. Best crack on then…

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


Totally without motivation. That's me. But it's not just in running, it's in everything right now. I don't know why… Well, I might know.

Since I got back from Macau 9 or 10 days ago, I've had no energy. And to exacerbate this, I've had shitloads of beer to drink. Well, maybe not shitloads, but I've frequently had alcohol. Every other day, pretty much.

I've not been running. It was a pure joy while I was away, it kept me together when I could hardly keep my eyes open. When I came back, exhaustion took over and I only now feel like my shit is coming back together. Frustratingly I know I'll feel better once I get out and run. I know I will. But getting out there… It's not so much that I can't be arsed, it's more that I want to sleep, instead.

Maybe, just maybe, I might go out for a short one tonight. I'm cooking bolognese, so I can do the sauce, leave it on a low heat and go for a 30-minute run. Come back, clean up, cook pasta, serve. Job done. And who knows? It might even happen.

Note to self: Be a runner, not a fucking drunk.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Fail dawg.

Well, the experiment failed at the first hurdle. I must remind myself that I need time to recover from difficult things - like four flights in 10 days, two of which were for 12 hours. I'm still absolutely fucking wiped out. Need more sleep, that kind of thing. So I haven't been out yet - not run, not swum, not gymmed. Juts mooched, and lounged, and sat on my expanding arse.

The plan is still on, but not until… Well, no time limit on this really. I just need to feel I have a little bit of energy first. I don't want to do anything in the morning only to discover I have to have a fucking nap in the afternoon. And all thanks to a 3.5 mile run in the morning. I'll just rest, recover, then come back with a vengeance. I'll know when - I'll probably start dreaming about running, then I'll know it's time…

Disappointing though, I must say.

PS: My new background picture is my gorgeous wife and lovely, lovely dawg walking on Nordy Bank. Nice, no?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The experiment. Kind of.

Well, as I mentioned before, I had intended to run a lot while I was away. In fact, from Tuesday 31st to Friday 10th, I managed to run 7 times, and while i'm delighted with the frequency, the distances were generally under 6 miles. Two were under 3 miles, but felt like 7 thanks to the heat and humidity.

It was good though. I love running in different countries or even just new places. While I was away, one of the seven books I read was by Dean Karnazes, the one about 50 marathons. Gave me a lot to think about, compounded some things I had been musing for a while, though some of that is for another post.

Next week, starting tomorrow, sees an experiment in diet and exercise to see how my body copes with it.

The plan is to get out and run my beloved 5.5 mile route in the morning, come back, change, eat a light brekkie, then take the dog out for a couple of hours.

Then do a bit of work (only a tiny bit though, taking it easy for a couple of days.), the either walk with the dog at lunch or maybe go for a swim. Or workout. Something, though. Then tomorrow night i'll go for whichever I didn't do in the day, a workout or swim - or maybe both. The next day, same again. I have a weight target I would like to hit by the end of the summer, so i'd best get my arse in gear.

Not to mention getting in shape for my huge, huge plans for next year... Huge plans!

So much to do. Got a novel to finish before the Autumn, taken on some new work, and want to spend quality time with my stunning wife. Oh, and get lots if sleep.

Did I mention that? Fuck me, this is rambling even for me. Early nights - they're the way to drink less. One of my triggers is staying up late, so that should sort that. I'll be in bed by 10 every night!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Running times.

Well, I started this week with the plan to run five miles every day, minimum. I failed, but looking back that was a fucking silly idea.

Tuesday I ran a solid 5.5 miles, then Wednesday I had a full day of travel to get to Vitoria. Left the house at 9am, got to my hotel at 9.30pm. Long day - but I got an easy 3.5 miles in before I went.

That evening, predictably, I had a few beers - and the next day, for the first time ever, I ran with a hangover. And on only perhaps three and a half hours' sleep. It was great! Only three miles, but a really fab run.

Today I went out to do 40 minutes and got completely lost, so did an extra mile-plus. 53 minutes overall and at least 5.5 miles because today, folks, I was fast. Well, for me. A great run in a beautiful city, where almost no-one speaks English. Hard times when you're lost, bright red and with sweat streaming down your face.

Back to heathrow today, a six miler on for the morning. Fingers crossed! Then an overnight flight to Hong Kong, and a rest day Sunday. Running in the tropics from Monday, woo hoo!

Enough burble. Off to airport.

Oh, and remind me to tell you about how I skinned my knuckles. On a sink.